Monday, May 16, 2022
SportHeartsHearts owner Ann Budge bracing herself for Aaron Hickey's departure after confirming...

Hearts owner Ann Budge bracing herself for Aaron Hickey’s departure after confirming offer

Hearts owner Ann Budge has admitted that she is bracing herself for Aaron Hickey’s exit after opening talks with a European club over the sale of the teenager.

Budge revealed that the unnamed side, thought to be Italian Serie A outfit Bologna, are the only club to have submitted an official offer for the precocious left-back.

Although the opening bid was not accepted, dialogue remains ongoing with the interested party in an attempt to reach a deal.

A stony-faced Ann Budge gives an interview | Hearts news
Budge confirmed an offer had been made for Hickey

Hickey, whose current contract expires next summer and is thought to be valued at around £1.3 million, has also been linked with Champions League winners Bayern Munich, Celtic and Manchester City.

The youngster broke into the team at the tail end of the 2018/19 campaign and made 30 appearances last season.

As Hickey prepares to depart Hearts, Elliott Frear became manager Robbie Neilson’s fourth summer recruit after the former Motherwell winger signed a 12-month contract yesterday.

On Hickey, Budge said: “Despite all the names thrown about, the club has only had one approach. That was on Tuesday of this week. 

“We did receive an offer. I have gone back to them with a couple of questions so it is basically still being discussed.

“It’s not a million miles away, it’s pretty close.”

Europe

Budge, who confirmed the club in question was from mainland Europe, added: “Aaron is a lovely young lad. That’s one of the reasons I would love him to stay. 

“He is also very sensible and he’ll think it all through. He works so hard and, despite everything going on, he is giving his all to training.”

Budge also conceded that there was now little chance of 18-year-old signing a new long-term deal with Hearts.

“I would love to keep Aaron here but – I don’t want to imply that it’s Aaron – the situation has snowballed a bit,” she added.

“Could we turn it back again? I don’t think we would have much chance of success.

“He’s got advisors and his advisors are telling him that he would be better moving. 

“We have been trying to get Aaron to sign a long-term contract for a very long time. 

“We’ve gone back two or three times but with all the recent interest I think it would be difficult to persuade him to stay.”

The cash boon Hearts are set to receive through any sale of Hickey will help in their bid to balance the books after the businesswomen previously conceded that dropping to the second tier could cost the club around £3 million in income.

The departures of high-earner Conor Washington and the likes of Sean Clare and Uche Ikpeazu has already helped to redress the disparity in the turnover to wages ratio in what was regarded as a bloated squad.

She added: “We’ve cut the playing budget by a reasonable amount, which was essential. 

“Our playing budget was too high for the Premiership, never mind the Championship, so we had to address that.”

James Anderson

Budge, however, is encouraged by the signs that she will be able to count on the support of James Anderson.

The philanthropic businessman was recently unmasked as the mystery benefactor who has donated over £9 million to the club over the last seven years after he gifted over £3 million to SPFL sides to help them navigate through the coronavirus pandemic.

The supporters are also continuing to back the club through season tickets sales and their membership of the Foundation of Hearts.

“We have the support of the benefactors, which is a huge weight off my mind,” added Budge.

“But that’s only going to continue as long as we think we’re doing the right things and that we have a plan for the future.

“We’ve got to do our bit, which is why the first thing I said is that we would make cuts when this disaster happened, we were quick off the mark and did everything we could internally to ensure the club could survive. 

“We took advantage of all the government schemes, fully. 

“Then, we were dependent on the supporters and they completely blew us all away.”

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